Planning Commission rejects state's road plan

Assembly to hold meeting about project on July 29

Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Juneau Planning Commission has recommended against the state's plan to build a road out of Juneau.

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The commission voted 5-3 late Tuesday night against extending Glacier Highway on borough land, saying it did not coincide with the city's land-use code and comprehensive plan.

Commissioner Marshal Kendziorek, who voted against the project, said he doesn't think the state worked hard enough with the Planning Commission to find solutions to some of the questions it posed.

"That's very unfortunate that (it's) the biggest project that has ever affected our community and they haven't been as willing to work with us as we would like," Kendziorek said.

The preliminary rejection of the permit does not mean that the state must scrap the project. The Juneau Assembly has final say on the matter under state statute. A special meeting on the project has been set for 9 a.m. on July 29 in the Assembly chambers.

Kendziorek said a number of problems with the state's proposal led to the commission rejecting the permit. He said the problems range from the project not fitting in with the values of the community, aesthetic issues, environmental factors and the land use itself.

"Had the state shown a willingness to work with our community in a collaborative process, things might have gone very different," he said.

Mary Siroky, a special assistant to the transportation commissioner, said the state contends this is an important project for all of Alaska, not just Juneau.

"We sometimes forget that the rest of the state wants access to the capital city," she said. "This is a statewide priority for the department."

How to comment

public input on the city's decision on the juneau access road has been restricted to written comments, which must be received by 4:30 p.m. on july 26 at city hall.

The city's Community Development Department, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities and Southeast Alaska Conservation Council each will present their cases to the Assembly at the meeting.

The Planning Commission was not looking at the entirety of the road project when considering the permit, but rather a 23.4-mile section. The state envisions a road that would extend Glacier Highway from Echo Cove to a ferry terminal just north of the Katzehin River.

Emily Ferry, coordinator for the Alaska Transportation Priorities Project, a statewide watchdog organization, said the Planning Commission made the right decision here.

"From the very start citizens have felt that this project has been bulldozed through," Ferry said.

Ferry said the road, which is estimated at $189 million, is not a necessity. The project would include a $16 million new ferry terminal and another $53 million for shuttle ferries.

"There's a feasible and prudent alternative out there in the ferry system that would not have the impact," she said. "The alternative has been out there working for 40 years without those impacts."

Siroky said the state will be ready to makes its case to the Assembly on July 29.

"We're hopeful that we can present information that clearly educates the Assembly on the importance of the project to Juneau and the state as well," she said.

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